SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Hyatt Regency looked good for an ROH show. Nice crowd vibe, too.
1 – CHRISTOPHER DANIELS vs. BOBBY FISH
Fish got a nice pop from the crowd to start. Both men took turns dominating on the mat, until Fish applied a couple of knee bars to Daniels. I like Fish’s hybrid style, in regards to his mat work and strikes. Daniels took control on the outside, and then methodically worked on Fish in the ring. There was high drama when Daniels applied an arm bar to Fish on the limb he had worked the entire match. Fish hit some nice kicks during a trading-blows sequence and then applied the knee bar for the win.
WINNER: Bobby Fish via pinfall in 14:45. The match had an old-school feel, but was a tad too methodical during the middle portion. The finish made sense, considering Fish was scheduled to have his blow-off against Roderick Strong the next night. (**3/4)
2 – RODERICK STRONG vs. MOOSE
Fish stuck around to scout Strong. I like how ROH makes the “guest commentator” gimmick feel more natural. Strong came right after Moose, but ate a huge dropkick from the big man. Moose dominated Roddy on the outside, until Strong out-quicked Moose. Strong had a funny spot, where he ran around the entire ring to kick Moose in the face, also slapping Fish in the head in the process. Strong dominated the next several moments. Fish sounded very convincing on commentary. I wish ROH would decide whether Fish was a face or a heel, so he can go full-force into one direction.
Moose eventually caught Strong and wheel-barreled him into the hockey boards at ringside. Moose hit a big pop-up clothesline. Both men traded blows, before Roddy dropkicked Moose in mid-air! Strong hit a jumping knee, before following up with an enziguri and a backbreaker on the apron. Moose inadvertently crashed into Fish at ringside, and then Strong capitalized with a flurry of kicks and strikes. Strong hit a superplex and a double-knee gutbuster, but Moose hit a desperation lariat before collapsing to the ground! Strong attempted some shenanigans, but Moose exploded out of the pinfall attempt at a count of one! Roddy hit three stiff knee strikes to Moose’s face to get the victory!
WINNER: Roderick Strong via pinfall in 14:30. I thought this match had a better pace than the opener. It did a great job of building toward the Fish-Strong on SCOH Night 2. I don’t think this particular loss hurts Moose that much, but it’s time for ROH to pick a direction and go with it. Moose has a lot of momentum following his match with Kazuchika Okada at the 14th Anniversary PPV, and I think he could be a good match-up for Lethal, even if it’s just a one-off. (***)
Fish attacked Strong after the match, and then shook hands with Moose.
Cheeseburger t-shirt ad, with all kinds of cameos.
B.J. Whitmer was out next with Joey “Diesel” Daddiego and Taeler Hendrix. The crowd was all over Whitmer, chanting “please retire.” It was several moments before Whitmer even got a word in, edge-wise. All that for Whitmer to say that he was allowing Daddiego to buy his spot in tonight’s 6-man Mayhem match. Oh yeah, and Whitmer is hanging around to do color commentary. Great.
3 – JOEY “DIESEL” DADDIEGO (w/Taeler Hendrix) vs. ADAM PAGE vs. DONOVAN DIJAK (w/Prince Nana) vs. FRANKIE KAZARIAN vs. CHEESEBURGER vs. DALTON CASTLE (w/“the boys) – Six-man Mayhem match
The “boys” were sporting Kurt-Angle-sized, red-white-and-blue cowboy hats. Castle and Kaz started the match. Castle out-wrestled Kaz on the mat. No one wanted to tag Kaz, not even “the boys!” Castle did his “peacock” pose, but Cheeseburger snuck up from behind with a roll-up. Cheeseburger and Castle entered into a back-strectching posedown. In a cute spot, the ref counted to two as both men were stretched all the way on their backs. Dijak got to kick Daddiego, before Page entered the match. Dijak looked good in his exchange with Page. All six men entered and then a low-blow-fest ensued, with all six men selling ball-shots in the ring!
The action continued, as “the boys” fanned Kaz’s groin. Castle declared to Kaz that they were his “boys,” as Page hit his flipping clothesline on Dijak for a two-count. Page then hit a sick Shooting Star Press onto a sea of humanity at ringside. Cheeseburger got in cross body of his own, and Dijak was right behind him with a huge flipping dive onto everybody! In the ring, Dijak nailed Daddiego with a backbreaker, but Castle was right behind with a German suplex to Dijak. There was a quick sequence with everyone getting their big spots in. It all culminated with a Bangarang on Cheeseburger for the victory!
WINNER: Dalton Castle via pinfall in 9:44. Ten minutes was the perfect length of time for a match like this. The whole thing was pretty enjoyable, with a lot gif-worthy spots throughout. As flawed as Dijak’s return was, it was nice to see him get his hands on Daddiego. Dijak should be a total babyface, but his entrance with Nana came off heel-like. Castle got the win and perhaps the loudest crowd reaction of the night to this point. Perhaps he should challenge Lethal next? (***1/4)
After the match Dijak destroyed Daddiego around ringside. Daddiego fought back with a steel chair to Dijak’s knee. Daddiego declared it was “payback” for Dijak injuring Truth Martini. Taeler spat on Dijak’s prone body and then got into it with Prince Nana. Hot. Oh yeah, and B.J. Whitmer exchanged some words with Mr. Wrestling III at the commentary desk, if anyone actually cares.
4 – KYLE O’REILLY vs. IWGP Jr. Hvt. tag team champion MATT SYDAL
Big fight-feel to start. Quickly broke into crisp mat wrestling. Stalemate at the 3:10 mark. Sydal took control with a spinning heel kick. Sydal followed up with several more kicks over the next few minutes, including kicks specifically to O’Reilly’s knee. O’Reilly came back and began working Sydal’s arm at the 8:30 mark. O”Reilly hit a sweet submission where he contorted Sydal’s body with his feet. Bearhug/snap suplex combo by O’Reilly, followed by a nearfall at roughly 10:00. Both men traded kicks. Sydal came out on top with a standing moonsault, which was good for another nearfall.
O’Reilly hooked in a sick-looking Kimura lock, but Sydal was able to break free. He went for another standing Shooting Star, but O’Reilly hooked him in the Kimura again! Sydal quickly made it to the ropes, though. After some jockeying, O’Reilly hit a cross armbreaker, but again Sydal crawled to safety. O’Reilly hit a succession of butterfly suplexes, followed by Ax and Smash. O’Reilly hit a Regal Plex, but Sydal kicked out at two!
Reset at the 14:00 mark, with both men trading strikes and kicks. Both men kicked each other in the head. O’Reilly was slightly-less affected, or seemed that way, as Sydal reversed him into a hurricanrana! False finish for Sydal. He climbed up top, but O’Reilly met him there. They traded blows up top until Sydal came off the top with double-knees to O’Reilly’s chest! Sydal went for the Shooting Star, but O’Reilly caught him in a Triangle Choke! Sydal tried to roll through, but O’Reilly yanked him back into a cross armbreaker! Sydal tapped and the bell rang!
WINNER: Kyle O’Reilly via submission in about 16:00. Solid one-on-one match between two of the best in the business. O’Reilly’s smooth-as-silk submission transitions are so exhilarating to watch. I thought there were one too many trading-blows sequences, but this was a great match overall. ***3/4
MCMG t-shirt ad spot.
5 – ADAM COLE vs. A.C.H.
A.C.H. came out to a new remix of his theme song. Cole actually adhered to the Code of Honor. A.C.H. hit an “A.C.H., bay bay!” before a stalemate at the 1:45 mark. Cole challenged A.C.H. to a Test of Strength. After some theatrics, A.C.H. accepted, but was immediately kicked in the gut by Cole. Cole took control briefly, until A.C.H. fought back with a big dropkick. He went to follow up with a dive. Cole called “time out,” but A.C.H. was right there with a running punt kick from the apron!
A.C.H. dominated on the outside for a while, until Cole superkicked him in the back of the knee, making him land awkwardly on the floor. Cole took control, but eventually A.C.H. fought back with a kick and a huge lariat, followed by a matrix-like kip-up. A.C.H. went for Midnight Star at 9:20. Cole moved out of the way, but A.C.H. remained on top with an somersault Ace Crusher onto Cole! A.C.H. went up top again, but Cole shoved him hard to the floor. A.C.H. re-entered, but ate a superkick and then a Shining Wizard. A.C.H. was bleeding from the mouth.
Cole went up top, but A.C.H. hit his backlip/kick combo, and then followed it up with a huge Air Jordan dive to the outside. A.C.H. went for Midnight Star, but Cole moved and superkicked A.C.H. instead. Cole hit a neckbreaker over his knee, but A.C.H. somehow kicked out at two! Adam Cole posed on the second rope, but A.C.H. kicked him to the floor! Somehow, Cole survived a false finish. Behind the ref’s back, Cole hit a low blow and another neckbreaker over the knee for the victory!
WINNER: Adam Cole via pinfall in about 14:25. It was obvious from the start that Cole was going over, but A.C.H. was able to put up a believable fight and even had a couple of realistic false finishes. I thought this really well put-together, much better than the previous match. The finish was the typical creative sequence of sick moves and it did not disappoint. (****)
6 – ROH World tag team champions WAR MACHINE (HANSON & RAYMOND ROWE) & THE BRISCOES (MARK & JAY BRISCOE) vs. THE ALL NIGHT EXPRESS (RHETT TITUS & KENNY KING) & SILAS YOUNG & BEER CITY BRUISER – eight-man tag match
The heels refused to shake hands, so a huge brawl ensued. There was a series of big dives to the outside, and then the brawling at ringside continued. In the ring, somehow Bruiser hit a standing dropkick on Jay Briscoe! Rowe came in, picked up Bruiser, and hit an fallaway slam. Hanson was holding his own at ringside, but Bruiser came out of nowhere with a huge senton dive on the outside!The heels took control in the ring, as the match settled down. Mark Briscoe was the designated face-in-peril. Mark eventually flipped into his corner and tagged his brother.
They broke into an “every guy comes in and hits a spot” sequence. There were lots of quick tags until Hanson hit his Cartwheel Clothesline. War Machine hit some double-team moves, until King came in with a missile dropkick to break up their momentum. Silas and Bruiser joined the fun when Bruiser hit a huge frogslpash onto Hanson! Bruiser scored a nearfall until another brawl broke out. Hanson broke up the massive brawl at ringside with a huge dive onto everyone! Mark hit Froggy Bow on Bruiser for the pin.
WINNERS: War Machine & The Briscoes via pinfall in about 8:35. This show is starting to feel like a total warm-up for Night 2. This was fine with some fun spots, but came across as more filler. (**1/2)
After the match, War Machine and The Briscoes exchanged words over the ROH World Tag Team Titles.
7 – ROH World champion JAY LETHAL (w/Taeler Hendrix) vs. 2016 Top Prospect Tournament winner LIO RUSH – ROH World Title match
“Best in the world” chants for Lethal before intros. Will Ferrara joined the commentary desk. Rush moved around explosively during the initial feeling-out sequence. Lethal towered over Rush, but Lio was able to out-quick him during the opening minutes. Stalemate at the 2:20 mark. Lethal then took control with a basement dropkick to that back of Rush’s head. Lethal laughed at Lio, as the feeling-out process continued. Things picked up as a shoving match ensued at 4:30. Lethal won a battle of chops and then furiously stomped on Rush in the corner.
Lethal dominated for the next few minutes. “Is this the best they have to offer? I guess Ring of Honor ran out of ideas,” Lethal yelled at the commentators. Lethal’s hubris caught up with him as Rush snuck up from behind with a nearfall. On the outside, the taller Taeler Hendrix patted Lio on the head. Rush spanked her ass, as Corino made a hilarious and timely joke about how “you can get fired for that.” Lethal was able to hit a big dive, and then re-established his position in the ring. Lethal applied a chin lock at the 10:15 mark.
Lio eventually fought back and hit a Tornado DDT on Lethal at 12:40. Rush hit a huge flip dive to the outside. Back in the ring, he hit a nice spin kick, but Lethal kicked out at two. Lethal cut off the momentum with a Lethal Combination. Lethal went for the cover, but then yanked Lio up by the head to break it up! Lethal talked trash to Rush as he just pounded on him in the center. Rush valiantly got to his knees and called Lethal “weak.” Lethal responded with a superkick!
Lethal called for the Lethal Injection, but Rush blocked and then exploded into a flurry of strikes. Rush hit a big kick and then a reverse rana! The announcers and the crowd went nuts, as Lio climbed up top and hit a huge frogsplash. He made the cover, but Lethal kicked out at the last second! Lio positioned Lethal up top and went for his Rush Hour (one-man Spanish Fly), but Lethal reversed it into an Ace Crusher from the top rope! The champ then hit the Lethal Injection for the victory.
WINNER: Jay Lethal via pinfall in 19:35 to retain the ROH World Title. Solid title match. I liked how the pace was slowed down to tell a good story, although this might have gone five minutes too long for what it was trying to accomplish. Rush was very impressive with his explosive offense and was even able to sneak in a compelling false finish. The announcers did their job and said that “a star was born” in regard to Rush, but I think he has a long way to go if he wants to apart from several similarly undersized high-flyers in the promotion right now. (***1/2)
After the match, Lethal talked up Rush, before going on a rant about having beaten everyone. He repeated that charge that “Ring of Honor has run out of ideas.” The crowd cheered, as Lethal declared there was “nobody left.” All of a sudden, Colt Cabana’s familiar the music played, and out came Colt!
Huge “welcome back” chant, as Cabana began to speak. Cabana named several former ROH World Champions, saying he saw them start at the bottom and rise to the top. Cabana said he believed in “an alternative,” alluding to Ring of Honor. Colt doesn’t want to be known as “somebody’s friend.” Cabana declared himself “DIY” and said that no one could tell him what to do. Colt said no one could fire him, but reminded Lethal that he had been fired in the past.
Colt’s intense passion came through on the mic, as it sounded like he was talking about his own plight of being released by WWE. Colt said the fans still wanted to see him, and that’s why he never went away. “Colt Cabana” chant from the crowd. Lethal finally cut him off and said that the fans didn’t make him the greatest wrestler in the world, rather it was the ROH World Title belt that did. Lethal reminded Cabana that he’d been gone for 5 years, and Lethal took credit for his absence.
Cabana talked about how ROH called him immediately after “the guy with the racket” left. Cabana passionately talked about being an independent wrestler. Colt said it wasn’t because of the money or the TV, it was because his career wouldn’t be complete until he had the ROH World Title around his waist. Taeler slapped Colt in the face. Colt asked for another, but Lethal got in his face. Cabana raised his arms and left the ring.
[M.M. Reax: Hot return for Colt. It’s a shame that this wasn’t available live on iPPV, as the surprise factor was taken out of the equation. Regardless, this generated a good deal of internet buzz and gives Lethal a new challenger. So much for Moose or Dijak. It’s funny to see ROH emulating WWE in the “special attraction” department.]
8 – MOTOR CITY MACHINE GUNS (CHRIS SABIN & ALEX SHELLEY) vs. THE YOUNG BUCKS (NICK & MATT JACKSON)
Shelley and Sabin were referred to as the “Motor City Machine Guns” here, versus just “The Machine Guns” on TV. There was a big staredown before the bell, which really added some gravitas to this dream match. Matt and Sabin started things out. They did a cute “mirror image” sequence, and then their partners tagged in. The Machine Guns got the early advantage, as Shelley rammed Matt into Sabin’s boots. Sabin and Shelley hit their signature front-kick/back-kick combo and then they furiously ran the ropes to a big pop from the crowd!
The Bucks regained control when Nick hit a couple of big superkicks at the 4:45 mark. The Bucks pounded the mat to the Terminator theme and then hit big dives on their opponents at ringside. The Bucks worked on Shelley for a bit. Shelley tried to fight out of the corner at the 8:00 mark, but Nick cut him off with a swift kick to the back of the head. Shelley was able to reverse-STO Nick into the corner, but Matt ran in and cut off the tag. The letters “TNA” were uttered, which caused a “f*ck TNA” chant from the crowd and some jokes from the commentators.
Sabin made the hot tag and took on both Bucks. Shelley re-joined him, and The Machine Guns took care of Nick and Matt. Sabin hit a Tornado DDT on Matt, but could only get a two-count. Shelley held both Bucks at ringside, which allowed Sabin to hit a nice dive. Sabin and Shelley went for their finisher, but Matt escaped. Both Matt and Sabin were down, but Matt was able to make the tag to Nick right before being counted out!
Nick dropkicked Shelley off the apron and then hit his slingshot facebuster on Sabin in the ring. This was immediately followed by a moonsault to Shelley at ringside! The Bucks hit some of their double-team offense, including a swanton in the ropes by Nick. The Bucks went for More Bang for Your Buck, but The Guns escaped and Shelley hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Matt into Nick, who was tied in the Tree of Woe! All four men began hitting superkicks, until they were all down on the mat at the 15:30 mark!
Matt did his “s*ck it” routine. Shelley responded with the infamous Testicular Claw hold. The Bucks tried to reverse a Sliced Bread attempt into an IndyTaker, but the Guns came out on top of the exchange. They hit a pair of superkicks to Matt’s face and then hit a sliced bread/powerbomb combo out of the corner! Nick Jackson broke up the pin attempt at the last possible second. The Guns hit a Doomsday Dropkick, but The Bucks popped right up and hit a flurry of superkicks. They followed up with a Meltzer Driver for the victory!
WINNERS: The Young Bucks via pinfall in 18:28. Really fun main event. It was a good match-up in the ring, but it felt more like an exhibition than a heated contest. This was especially evident toward the end when Kevin Kelly actually said, “the fans don’t care who wins this one.” (***3/4)
After the match, The Addiction ran out and attacked both teams. The Briscoes came out to make the save. The Bucks and The Machine Guns hit a quadruple super kick on Kaz. The Briscoes joined in for a six-way superkick on Daniels to send the fans home happy.
Overall Score: (8.5) – Ring of Honor has a talented roster, capable of drawing a crowd and putting on stellar matches in the ring. That was evident in Dallas during WrestleMania weekend. It was a solid effort, with half of the show in four-star territory.
My major critique is that this was mainly a set-up for Night 2. You can’t blame ROH for running multiple shows during WrestleMania weekend, but ROH could have more evenly-distributed the big matches to both shows. Even the big Young Bucks-Machine Guns main event just felt thrown out there. It might have been the biggest match-up ROH could have featured both teams in, but it had the inherent problem of being babyface versus babface and The Guns losing so soon after re-uniting.
Worth watching if you are a die-hard ROH fan who plans to order both nights, but it might make more sense to just skip to Night 2 if you want to actually see some type of storyline progression.